Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Writing Wisdom & Advice of Vampire Huntress Author Leslie Banks: Transcript of Athena Isle Writers 7/30/08 Meeting

Best-selling paranormal/women's fiction/crime-suspense novelist Leslie Banks made a guest appearance in Second Life at the July 30 Athena Isle Writers meeting. She offered advice about writing and publishing with great warmth and supportive energy to the other writers attending. Following is the transcript of the meeting.

Novelist Leslie Banks reclines on the couch as Athena Isle Writers gather around the table, preparing for a Q&A session with the Vampire Huntress author.

Alas Zerbino: We'll all sit around the table by the fireplace, under the poster for Leslie.
Alas Zerbino: You can take a seat at the table by right-clicking on an empty chair and then choosing “Sit Here.” Another empty chair will automatically appear then.
BanksVamp Magic: Am I in the right grouping of chairs?
LOL... the VampHuntress just tried flying--that is so funny!
Alas Zerbino: Yes, Spellbound.
Sheryl Skytower: or we can all just grovel at her feet... :)
Spellbound Jorysch: haha
Misia Tigerpaw: Hehe
Alas Zerbino: LOL - very true!
Spellbound Jorysch: I can do that
Alas Zerbino: :)
Spellbound Jorysch: haha
BanksVamp Magic: BIG SMILE--this is really, really an awesome site!
Alas Zerbino: Yeah, I love it here!
Spellbound Jorysch: It's a cool place
Spellbound Jorysch: :)
Alas Zerbino: When anyone sits in that chair, another will rez
Spellbound Jorysch: ok?
Misia Tigerpaw: How cool :-)
Alas Zerbino: yeah, I call it my magic table!
Spellbound Jorysch: that is so cool
Sheryl Skytower: now if I could only do that in RL...
Spellbound Jorysch: haha
Misia Tigerpaw: lol too true
Alas Zerbino: wouldn't that be nice????!!!
Spellbound Jorysch: yes now THAT would be cool
Spellbound Jorysch: does it start at 12pm
Alas Zerbino: Yes, it does, and we should get started.
BanksVamp Magic: Yep... ready for questions whenever you guys are :)
Alas Zerbino: OK, then, I'll do my little spiel....
Spellbound Jorysch: ok

Alas Zerbino: Welcome to this Athena Isle Writers meeting at the Story Mountain Center for Writers on Athena Isle.
Alas Zerbino: OK, I’m thrilled now to introduce our guest today.
Leslie Banks began writing novels in the 90s, after leaving her high-powered business career to take care of her daughter. Interesting that a fiction contest by Essence magazine prompted her to write her first book, and this year, more than a dozen years later, she was named Storyteller of the Year at Essence’s First Annual Literary Awards event.

She has written more than 30 novels and contributed to 10 novellas, in multiple genres under various renderings of her full name, Leslie Esdaile Banks. She’s particularly beloved by her readers for her popular Vampire Huntress Legends series of 12 books, of which the last two are yet to be published. She’s also published other paranormal novels, women’s fiction, crime/suspense novels, and novelizations of movies and TV series – among many others.

She is appearing in Second Life as the avatar BanksVamp Magic. Welcome to Athena Isle Writers, Leslie! Please add whatever you wish to introduce yourself.

Alas Zerbino: BanksVamp, anything you want to say to begin -- before the questions start? :)
Photobucket BanksVamp Magic: BIG HUG to you and all... I'm honored to be here and love the avatar, BIG SMILE. The intro said more than enough--how's everyone?
Spellbound Jorysch: Hi
Storm Parx: great
Alas Zerbino: We're so delighted you're here!
Misia Tigerpaw: Great! and yourself? :-)
Spellbound Jorysch: how great to meet you
Misia Tigerpaw: Indeed

Misia Tigerpaw: QUESTION: How did you obtain a love for paranormals?
BanksVamp Magic: This is a fabulous group--are you writers, readers, or a combo of both? I ask because we can get into writing topics or book content stuff, whatever you all would like.
Spellbound Jorysch: I am a writer
Storm Parx: both
Misia Tigerpaw: Writer and reader yup
Sheryl Skytower: writer/reader
Alas Zerbino: I think the focus should be on writers -- that's what we primarily come here for.
Alas Zerbino: yes -- and readers, too!!

Paranormal was "normal" in Banks' life
BanksVamp Magic: Ah... the paranormal was sorta "normal" in my life. Grew up with old wives tales, superstitions about stuff--culturally it was a norm, LOL... then I LOVED every chiller flick out there, especially the B movies with killer tomatoes and ants, LOL!
Misia Tigerpaw: Lol awesome
Alas Zerbino: Jump in any time with comments or questions - anyone - just preface questions with QUESTION!

Sheryl Skytower:
QUESTION: do you see the market shrinking for paranormals with so much stuff out there? And where do you find such great ideas to write about and be fresh and original?
Alas Zerbino: BanksVamp, feel free to break the questions down and share as much as you want!
Alas Zerbino: We're here to learn from you!
BanksVamp Magic: I actually stumbled into the genre. When I wrote the piece that was going to be my short story contest entry, it was about star crossed lovers who'd died under a curse 500 years ago, reincarnated, and didn't know each other in the present--then began sharing the same dream as bad guys hunted them (protecting each other unwittingly.) This became a novel, the first one... from there, the rest is history--once you're pegged.
BanksVamp Magic: I don't see the market drying up in the least--there is a feeding frenzy going on right now for this genre, and I think it'll morph into other areas, just like romance did... paranormal romance, para suspence, para mystery, etc.
Spellbound Jorysch: No, I agree, there is a thirst for the paranormal

Spellbound Jorysch: QUESTION: I write and have had published 3 pieces of non fiction and am half way through my first non fiction. How do you find your inspiration?
BanksVamp Magic: Inspiration for the paranormal (herein after PN for short, smile) comes from the world news. OMG! What is on the news reads like sci-fi and horror daily... woman cuts baby out of another woman's stomach... need I say more? :)
Spellbound Jorysch: haha, that answers it
Sheryl Skytower: eep! no snacks, please!
Alas Zerbino: Hi Leslye, come on in and a seat

Alas Zerbino: QUESTION: Some descriptions make it sound like you “turned” to writing out of a need to put food on the table. But given the quality of your writing, I’m assuming there are other reasons why you write. True?
BanksVamp Magic: Yes, yes, so true Alas... need sent me in the direction of a latent talent. Let me be clear--I LOVE TO WRITE. It was never fully supported at home or as a kid, so it was my secret thing--I wrote stories in my head, never committed anything to paper--then when the need arose, the floodgates opened. Go figure :)

Which comes first: agent or sale?
Storm Parx: QUESTION: What was your secret to finding an agent?
BanksVamp Magic: The agent thing happened after I got a few solid books under my belt. Oddly, when I entered the market, there wasn't a thing called PN romance, so they shelved me in romance since sci-fi still had very clear lines of demarcation. Nobody wanted to rep a new romance writer... so I had to rep myself. Once the numbers started showing promise, then I literally went to conferences and found one there (RWA)
Spellbound Jorysch: That is so interesting

Sheryl Skytower: QUESTION:so do you like being categorized or would you place yourself in any one genre?
BanksVamp Magic: While we all hate to be categorized, it's a reality of marketing and shelving at the bookstores. If I have to be shelved anywhere, my truest love is Paranormal... if they leave me there, I can express the creativity any way I want--smile... and that's cool.
Alas Zerbino: That's really cool -- that latent talent showing up.
BanksVamp Magic: Yep... and this is why I tell the new writer, don't be so hard on yourself. You've been using your writing talent for YEARS and didn't know it--every time you observe something, each conversation you rewrite in your head (you know those we all have--the "I should have said THIS not THAT!" conversation), you've been writing.
Alas Zerbino: Very true!

Alas Zerbino: QUESTION: So before you had an agent, you went directly to the publishers?
Spellbound Jorysch: QUESTION: Nowadays, isn't it true that most publishers don't entertain any work without an agent on the scene?
BanksVamp Magic: Yes, I went direct to the publishers--and the best forums for that is going to the conferences and signing up for the pitch sessions... believe it or not, publishers really do scout for work and new talent at those events. RWA, RT, I know for sure have great sessions like that--and ALL the majors turn out to those conferences.
Spellbound Jorysch: In the UK, most publishers won't look at you unless you are represented
Spellbound Jorysch: The US is prolly different
Alas Zerbino: Yes, Spellbound, but some say you need a sale to get an agent, and others say you need an agent to get a sale...it's all case-based, I guess
BanksVamp Magic: Not all true, Spellbound... like I said, it is genre specific--but I know St. Martins and Tor don't require one, and they do major work in the sci-fi fantasy world, same with Kensington (they do Brandon Massey, Jonathan Mayberry)... so there are still open doors.
Leslye Writer: US from what I read says the following: To get an agent you need to be published and to be published you need an agent.
Spellbound Jorysch: That is interesting Leslye, I will take that on board
Alas Zerbino: LOL That's sometimes the vicious cycle I hear about!
BanksVamp Magic: True Leslye--BIG SMILE! Here's the thing... I would send in my manuscript to those houses that allow open submissions. Once you get a contract, shove that under an agent's nose--wait to sign it. That's what I did. I sold my first book, it was a two book deal... then went to an agent (who was at the same conference) and told her I had a sale. When the contracts came, I faxed them to her--instantly, LOL, I had an agent!
Spellbound Jorysch: haha, I might try that
Spellbound Jorysch: sounds good to me
Alas Zerbino: LOL Smart thinking!


Sheryl Skytower: QUESTION; how do you keep all your series and characters clear? do you have a master file of papers pinned up on a wall the size of Manhattan? :)
Alas Zerbino: / good question, Sheryl -- I was wondering that myself!
Spellbound Jorysch: me too :)
Alas Zerbino: and related to that one, QUESTION: How do you manage to be so *prolific*? :)
BanksVamp Magic: OMG! Yes! I have a white board and papers up on the wall with post-it notes and color pen sketches EVERYWHERE--my office looks like a mad scientist's lab... if it were equations, I could land the space shuttle, ha ha ha!
Sheryl Skytower: :D
Alas Zerbino: Hi Misia, welcome and have a seat

Spellbound Jorysch: QUESTION: I have an agent but she is way too nit picky, is this normal?
BanksVamp Magic: Your agent works for you--but she is trying to get the work saleable... if that is uncomfortable, tell her so--and tell her to send the damned book out, LOL! Seriously... they can jack with your work so much till you're feeling defeated, time is marching on, and there's no sale--only to get really mad and pissed off when it does go to a house and the EDITOR changes it to the way SHE/HE wants it. There's no reason an agent needs to be an editor. She's in the wrong profession trying to do that :)
Leslye Writer: interesting. wow
Spellbound Jorysch: I'm pleased you said that Banks because that's exactly how I feel.....lol
Alas Zerbino: Misia, jump in with a question any time -- I just ask that you type QUESTION before it so I can keep track.
Misia Tigerpaw: Okay :-)
Alas Zerbino: (and so Leslie can keep track, too, though it sounds like her organizational skills are extremely developed!!)
Misia Tigerpaw: :-D

How she "churns" out six books a year!
Sheryl Skytower: QUESTION: do you have a routine, or just write when it "takes" you... or is it a case of Butt In Chair?
BanksVamp Magic: Oh, no, you can't churn 6 books a year writing as you "feel" like it. I club and wrestle my Muse to the ground daily--I keep an office routine... coffee and kid out the door... 8am, clear email till 10am, then edit the previous day's drivel, LOL, make it right (my day editor is the butcher), I put in 8-12 hours a day, 5 days a week--7 when on deadline.
Spellbound Jorysch: I understand that
Alas Zerbino: Wow!!
Spellbound Jorysch: I have been there last year.
Spellbound Jorysch: But 6 books a year......WOW
Alas Zerbino: I know -- one book in 6 years is a lot for *some* of us (which is probably why our careers are so sluggish...ha-ha)
BanksVamp Magic: Yeah, crazy, LOL--my hair should be white, LOL! 2 vampire novels, 2 werewolf novels, a romance and usually 3 anthologies (which equal a book all total)... insane :)
BanksVamp Magic: Oh, no, one book a year is reasonable--this is crazy... you guys are not sluggish career-wise. Better to get it down pat before you mass produce it, than to mass produce junk. It took 10 years to build the muscle to do this now, in the early days it was a book a year or less... truth.
Alas Zerbino: Ahh, that sounds more doable...
Spellbound Jorysch: I don't feel so bad now :-D
Misia Tigerpaw: I can tackle that now yeah hehe

Alas Zerbino: QUESTION: If you weren't *born* with that kind of energy, what can a writer do to stay on task like that?
BanksVamp Magic: Energy-wise, it's like exercising--you don't jump up and run a marathon without passing out or killing yourself (smile.) Just try to set a consistent 2 hours a day aside to do nothing but write. That can be researching for the project, editing what you wrote earlier, or new prose, but make that time yours for your craft--then watch how it gets good to you and creeps into being 3 hours... then 4 hours... then 5 -- smile. It's a habit, or an addiction -- LOL!
Alas Zerbino: LOL -- that's so true!
Spellbound Jorysch: It's an addiction for me lol]

Spellbound Jorysch: QUESTION: Have you ever co- written a book? I have been asked to co -write a book for America with an established author
Alas Zerbino: QUESTION: You mention your daughter often – what role does she play in your writing career?
BanksVamp Magic: Quick 2 answers... I have co-written books--early years worked with a big name romance writer, and because we were and are buds, it was a hoot... but we wasted a lot of time playing, shopping, jawing about other stuff and had to really make ourselves focus--the hardest thing is if styles and mindsets don't blend. then it can be like a really bad marriage--ugh! But when it's sweet, it's really good :)
BanksVamp Magic: Now, the daughter... she runs for pizza, answers the phones, and keeps the wolves away from the door (family interrupters, ha ha ha), and collects mail--when I'm head's down writing, I forget to sleep, eat, and pay bills--she tells me, Mom, pay the electric bill so your tube doesn't shut down. LOL!
Spellbound Jorysch: Thank you for that. I am wondering whether it is the right thing to do and the marriage may not be as good as I initially thought. I know exactly what you mean
Spellbound Jorysch: :)
BanksVamp Magic: Choosing an agent, getting the right editor, and choosing a writing partner is no diff than a real marriage--seriously. If your values are different, outlooks on life don't jive, belief systems don't mesh, all of that intangible stuff, you will have issues with those folks. It also takes time, just like dating, to find that soul-mate agent, that special editor, and that ideal co-writer... so be gentle on yourself while you're looking.
Misia Tigerpaw: Lol I love that
Leslye Writer: I feel so much energy from you BVM, even in this conversation! I am so impressed!
Spellbound Jorysch: you are obviously very dedicated :)
Alas Zerbino: so do I!
Spellbound Jorysch: what a wonderful evening
Alas Zerbino: That makes a lot of sense.
BanksVamp Magic: BIG HUG, Leslye
Spellbound Jorysch: I have had seven years of difficulties finding the right marriage on all accounts. :0

PhotobucketSheryl Skytower: QUESTION; do you think that proper education, such as a MFA, helps writing or is it more a skill you have to cultivate on your own outside of the "higher institutions of learning"?
BanksVamp Magic: Special Forces training would help more than an MFA, LOL--seriously--life experience is what hones you, and conference workshops are more to the point than grad school. Here's the thing--it's a business and time to market is everything. Show then you are a Marine and can get more done by 5am than the normal person, they'll hire you to write their books, flaws and all--because those can be fixed--what cannot be fixed is a non-deliverable. They look at your baby (the book) as a product :)
Spellbound Jorysch: nods

Spellbound Jorysch: QUESTION: When you write do you have off days....writers block and all?
BanksVamp Magic: I have off days where I get stuck--and that's writer's block--when you are stuck... the only cure I've found is research... generally when you're stuck it's because you ran into something you didn't expect or don't have the answer for, so you don't know where to go next. Stop, drop, and roll, lol -- go back to research for a day or so and find out the answer to what's sticking in your craw. Yeah, we're all human and all have those days :) Uh huh!
Leslye Writer: Is this being logged or put somewhere so we can have access to it, this conversation?
Spellbound Jorysch: thanks you Banks :) making me feel better again......lol
BanksVamp Magic: HUGGGSSSS!
Spellbound Jorysch: you can copy and paste it Leslye
Misia Tigerpaw: Oh good question. I was wondering that as well. Would love a copy. (i got booted earlier and missed some of it)
Spellbound Jorysch: can you? not illegal?
Spellbound Jorysch: lol
Alas Zerbino: Yes, Leslye, I always put up the transcript on the Athena Isle Writers blog: http://athenaislewriters.blogspot.com/ a few days after
Spellbound Jorysch: ah there you go
Misia Tigerpaw: Great! Thanx :-D
BanksVamp Magic: LOL--writers--ah the copyright clause--BIG SMILE!
Spellbound Jorysch: HAHA
Alas Zerbino: This time doesn't work for some people, so they can only "attend" these meetings via the transcript on the blog.
Misia Tigerpaw: LOL
Leslye Writer is very encouraged by the energy and the quickness and the positive-ness of this meeting. It is like being cheer led. Thank you BVM.
Alas Zerbino: so true about that copyright concern! :)
BanksVamp Magic: I know things were scrolling fast--did I get everyone's question? Don't wanna miss anyone -- BIG HUG!
Spellbound Jorysch: omg....people are going to read what I write???????.......lol
Misia Tigerpaw: I agree this is awesome :-D

Alas Zerbino: QUESTION: Why did you start writing the Soul Food TV Series novels? (and other novelizations)
BanksVamp Magic: At the time, had a break in the action, and had (then) 4 kids that needed shoes, LOL!
Alas Zerbino: LOL Supporting the kids is always a great motivation, isn't it?
BanksVamp Magic: LOL--yes, the things we do for the kids---but heck yeah... if you can do novelizations and get into that end of the business, for sure. Many people have built steady careers doing just that.
Alas Zerbino: I thought so.

Alas Zerbino: QUESTION: Would you recommend that as a way to get into publishing?
BanksVamp Magic: No, seriously (and yes, seriously) -- I love the silver screen... always wanted to do a film and TV series... one day. There wasn't a spot for me to do that just yet, but my agent is a crazy man and told me to backward engineer the stories for the opportunity that presented itself. There an MFA did help from being about to interpret visual data into narrative... the Scarface one was the most challenging.
Alas Zerbino: I can sure understand why!

Sheryl Skytower: QUESTION: any movie deals on the horizon???
Alas Zerbino: QUESTION: So your agent looks at all possible opportunities for you?
BanksVamp Magic: Yes, my agent has no shame, LOL! If there's an opening to write sandwich boards, he'll pitch it to me, LOL!
Spellbound Jorysch: haha

Misia Tigerpaw: QUESTION: How did you get your agent, if I may ask? (I hope this wasn't answered but if it is I'll check the log later lol. Thanx!)
Alas Zerbino: LOL
Misia Tigerpaw: Lol
Alas Zerbino: (I don't know if she has more to say on that Misia, but she did address it earlier, so it'll be in the transcript.)
BanksVamp Magic: The current one I have came from a recommendation through another writer buddy. the first could I had happened from conference connections and on the spot hook-ups and networking... then they sold a few of my books, we did the dance, the marriages didn't work, and I bailed--smile. Then I met Manie Barron, who was actually a sales rep for Random House and had worked in all aspects of publishing, was an editor at one time, et al, and he was enroute to William Morris and just building his stable of authors there. timing, the cosmos--like I said, half of this stuff does boil down to timing.
Alas Zerbino: Well our hour is almost up -- it went so fast!!! You've been so awesome, BanksVamp

Second Life is "awesome community" for writers
Alas Zerbino: QUESTION: What do you think of Second Life so far, and how it can support writers?
Sheryl Skytower: *applause* y'all come back now, please?
BanksVamp Magic: BIG BIG HUG right back at you--I think Second Life is an awesome community! This was an absolute pleasure! I think links to author info, posting conferences, any of that helps writers. Also, SFWA and NWU has some good tips on agents. THANK YOU for having me and I'd be honored to return! Much Love!!!
Alas Zerbino: That would be super!!
Spellbound Jorysch: ah, well we are honoured to have you :)
Spellbound Jorysch: thank you so much for giving us your time and wonderful insight
Alas Zerbino: I hope you'll come back to SL -- and to Story Mountain!!
Leslye Writer: Thanks to all of you for making this happen
Alas Zerbino: Yes, what a great group of writers!
Spellbound Jorysch: a big thanks to you also Alas

BanksVamp Magic: Thank you all sooo much--we'll set it up and I'd love to come back soon... take care! Have a wonderful rest of the day, folks! :)
Alas Zerbino: Thank you, Spellbound!
Sheryl Skytower: best of the day to everyone!! and keep writing!!!
Misia Tigerpaw: Thanks so much for having this meeting and a big thanks to Ms Banks for coming to SL :-D
Alas Zerbino: BanksVamp, you've really made the week special!
Spellbound Jorysch: yes you certainly did
BanksVamp Magic: Thanks, all! Good luck on the writing! Keep the faith, ok!
Sheryl Skytower: now someone take her to the vampires! :)
Misia Tigerpaw: Lol
Alas Zerbino: We'd love to have you come back and maybe do a reading and do a voice event.
Alas Zerbino: LOL, Sheryl
Misia Tigerpaw: That'd be awesome :-D
BanksVamp Magic: Kewel! YEAH! OK! BIG SMILE!
Alas Zerbino: YAY!!!!!
Spellbound Jorysch: YAY!!!!
Spellbound Jorysch: APPLAUSE
Misia Tigerpaw: Wooo!